Friday, October 10, 2008

Joe Abercrombie

UK fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie is the author of the First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Over the last couple of weeks - in an airport, on a flight, and standing on the stairs for an hour this evening - I have been reading an exciting first novel that has set its genre aflame, called The Blade Itself.

I know what you're thinking. "But isn't that your book? How dare you promote it in such a barefaced manner? You pompous arse!" And you'd be right. I am a pompous arse. But not for that reason. Because although I have been reading an exciting first novel entitled The Blade Itself, the genre it set aflame was not fantasy but crime, and the author was not me, but a very pleasant young man from Chicago called Marcus Sakey.

Allow me to explain. It was, I think, several months after I sold my book, The Blade Itself, to a publisher, but several months before it was published, that I became aware that someone else had sold a book called The Blade Itself in the US. There is no hint of copying, the timing makes it impossible, we had simply, simultaneously, picked the same title, derived from a quote from Homer's Odyssey, "the blade itself incites to violence." Great minds think alike, I guess. And mine. When The Blade Itself was optioned for a film a few months ago I received a welter of congratulations from readers. A welter which greatly surprised me, since my agent had not been in touch. It was, in fact, Marcus Sakey's book, The Blade Itself, which had been taken to the bosom of Hollywood. In Siena, Italy a couple of weeks ago, my wife needed a book for the flight, so we stopped into a bookshop to peruse the English Language section. As I occasionally do when in a bookshop, I checked to see if my books were in stock. They did have The Blade Itself. You guessed it. Marcus Sakey's The Blade Itself.

So I thought I'd check it out. And I'm glad I did. It's a recognisable style of story - guy with a shady past makes good but his shady past comes back to haunt him - but it's nicely written with some good characterisation, a strong eye for detail, and the tough prose one would expect. At times I felt the plot tended to drive the characters rather than the other way around, but the build up and climax really were cracking, hence my finishing the book standing on the stairs. All in all a great piece of crime writing, and I look forward to reading whatever else Sakey puts out. Providing none of it shares titles with any of my other books, of course....

So my advice? Read The Blade Itself. Both of 'em.
Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz wrote of the First Law Trilogy: "Abercrombie has written the finest epic fantasy trilogy in recent memory. He's one writer no one should miss."

Learn more about the author and his work at Joe Abercrombie's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue